Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

Cranky Kid? 6 Great Ways to Deal!

on July 31, 2013

Like adults, kids want to be understood but trying to communicate their needs can make them feel frustrated, cranky, and unhappy. Here’s how you can help.

1. Make Eye Contact
Getting your child’s attention in a calm manner is the first step. My daughter-in-law is a master at this and it works well for her everytime. If your young one is not paying attention to you, she’s unlikely to listen to what you say, or to change her behavior.

2. Keep It Simple
Just like adults, kids who are angry and frustrated get caught up in their own thoughts and feelings, which make them physically and emotionally less able to listen to reason. So save the detailed discussion you’d like to have for another time. Limit your message in the heat of the moment to just a few words. perhaps, just use one word if your child is under two years old. Deliver a clear and concise message that is easily understood and always be consistent.

3. Find Out What’s Wrong
It’s normal for little kids to be sad, frustrated, tired, hurting, or some combunation of these conditions. Rather than focusing or simply trying to stop the undesired behavior, start by finding out what’s wrong. This approach can pay dividends in the heat of the moment, as well as long term. Encourage your child to use her words about why she is unhappy. My daughrt-in-law uses such prompts: “Ask for help.” or “Use your words.” She even taught my granddaughter the gestures in sign language for the words: please, help, and thank you to use if her words don’t always surface first in a frustrating situation. Using this approach puts you in the best position to help you solve the problem. Showing respect for your young one’s feelings will help her feel loved and may encourage her to do the same to you and others.

4.Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
One way to calm a very young child who doesn’t have the language skills to express her feelings, is to mimic her body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Using simple words or very short phrases express in words what you think she is feeling, and match her body language. It can calm her down to know she’s being understood. She may even be so fascinated by what you’re doing that she forgets what she is upset about. I’ve used this strategy with my granddaughter who is now two years old and it worked each time when she was upset about something. Try it. You’ll be surprised about the positive results you’ll experience.

5. Reward Good behavior, Not Bad
The time to bring out a favorite snack or treat is not when your child is misbehaving. Even very young children learn that their actions have consequences. Some kids act out because thay want more attention from their parents; if that sounds like your child schedule extra play time and time to be together – just the two of you. When she misbehaves and the situation escalates, a short time out (a few minutes away from you) might be just the incentive she needs to change her negative behavior into being more positive.

6. Master the Time Out
It may be heart wrenching to walk away from a crying child but many child behavior experts advise that, when used correctly, a time out can be an effective and kind way to let your child know that she has done something wrong. Not all behavior deserves a time out, so decide in advance which behaviors make the time out list, and let your young one know what they are. When a time out is needed, calmly settle the child in a safe place, and stand nearby, but don’t interact with her. Keep the time out short – start with a minute or two – and when the time out is up be sure to reconnect with her with a hug and to re-enforce good behavior when you see it.

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